Maui and Big Island Report, Part II (Hana and Upcountry Maui)...(Long)
After getting our fill of the beach, in Part I:
we headed off to see more of the island of Maui, with two days in Hana and three based in Makawao.
Not a lot to report on Hana: We were there on our tenth wedding anniversary, and given that we'd not heard much that was promising about the food there, we mostly ate on our cottage lanai, which was lovely, romantic and secluded. We did have a plate lunch at Tutu's plate lunch at Hana Bay. The pork plate wasn't memorable, though I did like their cole slaw: not too much mayo, nice flavor. There are several signs around town for an ice cream place, called Sweet Licks, I believe, that I really wanted to try, but alas, only the signs existed (at least while we where there), or else it is very, very well hidden in a very small town. Hasegawa's General Store has Loelani, a commercial Hawaiian brand of ice cream that is fine, though not outstanding, and we had to settle for that. (though I will say, the shaved ice at Tutu's, which we saw someone else order, was HUGE)...One hound related note: we brought our provisions over from the west side in a thermal bag we purchased at Longs: only $3.50, and worked as well or better than a cooler, plus it takes up less space in a very crowded rental car.
In Upcountry, in and around Makawao, OTOH, there were lots of interesting food choices. We tried the following:
Surfing Goat Dairy: I am a sucker for goat cheese, so we had to visit this dairy in Kula. Billed as a tourist stop, but we skipped the tour and concentrating on tasting and buying. My only complaint is that they don' t have any hard goat cheeses: just soft cheeses and spreads.
Our favorites were the French Dream (aged, in wax) and Mango (a fresh spread). Ended up buying some to bring home (Frozen, will see how it does...)
Grocery shopping: There is a good Foodland, with the usual great poke selection (LOVED the edamame poke!), in Pukalani but if one is too lazy to drive the eight miles or so from Makawao, one could do much worse than the Rodeo General Store in Makawao. Nice wine selection, and they were having a wine sale while we were there. The dolmas at the deli here were very good, as was the deli meat selection. They also have a daily take out dinner special if one really doesn't want to cook at all, though we didn't try it. Friendly people, also.
If you stop at the Rodeo store, be sure to go across the street to Komodo T Store and Bakery. Not for groceries, but for the bakery: the cream puffs were as nearly perfect as a cream puff with custard (as opposed to cream) could be: the pastry is amazing! Hubby ordered a bar with chocolate custard in side, and amazing pastry as well. Didn't try the malasadas or donuts here but I bet they are worthwhile.
The Volcano Spice Company on Baldwin a few doors down from the Rodeo Grocery has some interesting Hawaiian Sea Salts and some great habanero coconut salsa.
Market Fresh Bistro (Makawao): I wanted to love, love, love this place, which prides itself on using local farmers and suppliers. They do breakfast and lunch, and dinner a few nights a week. We went for dinner, and ended up liking, but not loving it, even though I love the concept. It is byo, although one of the owners was chatting with us, and told us the wine permit is coming very soon, so there may be a list by the time you get this. He said it would be very Euro-centric, since his opinion of New World wines in general apparently isn't that high. Tried to talk him into modifying that stance (to me, it just doesn't seem right to build a restaurant based on eating locally, and then drink only from Italy and France. but that's just me, and I doubt if I convinced him.). It was nice to chat, I did learn that the chef and the other owners are all former New Yorkers and the chef cooked previously at Union Station and for Daniel Bouloud, in Manhattan.
Anyway, it is very casual, with a very open kitchen. The chef was breaking in a new sous chef while we were there.
As for the food: started with a salad, which was very nice, though the local tomatoes were stewed, which I found disappointing and a bit jarring. We also had scallops on a very nice gazpacho. For a main, hubby had opakapaka (Hawaiian Pink Snapper). Alas, we weren't told before ordering that it was an entire fish: had we known this, I might have just shared one starter, or shared the main. It was a lot of food, but the fish was perfectly cooked: grilled with a crust of local herbs. Hubby loved it, even though he was a bit uncomfortable doing the filleting himself (he asked the server if someone could debone it, but the server declined to help or ask the kitchen to help, which I found a little odd, although granted, it did mean I was able to dig out the fish cheeks.). In any case, the fish was a big hit.
Wish I could say the same for my braised beef short ribs: they were tough and stringy and completely forgettable. Definitely a miss.
The only two offerings for dessert were a cheesecake and passionfruit sorbet. We ordered sorbet to share, and were brought a small plate, which the server told us was on the house, since it was the last of it. Tasted like the last of it also: icy, nothing special.
Other than demurring on deboning the fish, service was very good to excellent. I'd go back, but with expectations more in check, or perhaps try it for lunch. They don't have a website yet, that I can find, but are on Open Table. Dinner for two of us, with our own wine purchased at Rodeo Store up the street, was about $100 before tax and tip.
Halliimaile General Store:
seems to get mixed reports on this board. So, we weren't sure whether to go, but what the heck, the Giants had just won the Series, and it was our anniversary trip, so we went for it, and are VERY happy we did, despite initial service glitches (more on that in a minute). Put hubby and I very much squarely in the 'this place is not to be missed' category. Probably tied with Star Noodle for our favorite dining experience on Maui, and it was only a mile or two from our cottage in Makawao.
Although we could have been seated without a reservation, we were glad we called for one, because during our call, the friendly woman I spoke with told me that it was "Aloha Monday" and that if we each brought a non-perishable food item to donate to the Maui Food Bank, our mains would be half off. Well, of course, we went right back to Rodeo Store to pick up some lentils and a bag of rice. Happy to donate to a good cause, and happy that this move saved us at least $30 or more...Not every Monday is Aloha Monday apparently, but its a great way to sample this place, and well worth asking about when you call.
We arrived a few minutes early for our reservation, and had a drink at the bar. Loved the ambiance: very much a country store turned fancy: casual, comfortable, yet festive. Well-spaced tables. Sort of Point Reyes meets the Tropics...
The bartender was great, and so were our drinks. Hubby loved their old fashioned martini (with a twist and olives), and I had a Ginger Frost: fresh ginger, soda, vodka and orange and I think passionfish juice: not at all sweet, great kick to it, recommended. In no time at all we were seated at a prime table by the window and the hostess took our drinks to our table...
Water and bread was brought by the busboy promptly. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. At least ten or fifteen minutes went by. We weren't a hurry, but we were obviously forgotten. Finally, hubby went up to the host stand to inquire as to whether we had a server. Sure enough, there had been a communications problem, and we didn't have a server. Both a server and the manager were at our table within moments, apologizing profusely. That would have been enough for us, but they also comp'd both of our drinks AND the wine we ordered with dinner. Really above and beyond, but most appreciated as a gesture. I mean, stuff happens, but it is how a place deals with it that sets the tone for the meal...
well, from there on out, it was a wonderful meal. We started by splitting an order of fried calamari with a panko coating, on a bed of arugula. Served with chopsticks. This was the best calamari I've had in a long, long time: the breading didn't overwhelm, and it was cooked perfectly. Light, delicious, perfect to share.
For mains, hubby had the rack of lamb in a black bean sauce, which he loved, and couldn't resist at half price, and I had grilled opa, on special, which was served with wonderful Israeli couscous that was very garlicky and included marconi almonds. Both mains were excellent and perfectly cooked to order (rare fish and rare lamb! yeah!).
After such success, dessert was definitely in order. We split the warm pineapple upside down cake ala mode. It was perfect. The ice cream was a recommendation from our server, and a very good one (instead of whipped cream).
On Aloha Mondays there is a mandatory 18% tip on what the bill would have been before the big discount on the mains, which is an approach (our own service issues notwithstanding) I do approve of. I am not sure what our bill would have been, since the bar bill was comp'd and was such a big part of it, but I think it would have been about $130 for two (after the Aloha Monday discount, but with three glasses of wine, two drinks, tax and tip). I'd imagine one would pay $150 to $175 or perhaps even a bit more a couple without the Monday discount, if you drink a moderate amount.
I'd go back in a heartbeat, Monday discount or not. Indeed, I'd probably stay in Makawao again, just to be close enough not to have to drive far on the narrow, dark and windy roads after dinner there...but then, there is plenty in Makawao to keep a Chowhound busy, even without dinner at Haliimaile...
Alas, the next day it was time to leave Maui for the Big Island, where we love the diving and that is compensation for the lack of great dining...Part III, The Big Island, will be next...
Rodeo General Store
3661 Baldwin Ave, Makawao, HI 96768
286 Kupuohi St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Great report. I adore HMGStore. However you should send a donation to their local food bank for the free drinks and 1/2 priced entree's. Somehow a bag of rice and some lentils seems unsubstantial compared to your wonderful evening.
Very much looking forward to hearing your BI report. I have always wanted to stay in Paia or Makawao.